The boarding announcement goes out on time so I make a hasty trip to Boots for a chicken & stuffing sandwich to take on board before heading for Gate 13. We arrive with plenty of time before anyone is let on board and hold off boarding as long as possible.
We are sitting in one of those fantastic 2 seater window rows at the back of the plane with us on the right and Scott’s parents on the left hand side of the plane. After being on board for a while we get an announcement that there’s a technical fault, a light bulb isn’t working upstairs and we can’t legally take off until it’s fixed. There’s a good humoured groan but the co-pilot tells us we can use our electronics until further notice so everyone seems quite happy and either call people or wander around the plane for a bit. Soon enough we get the call to take our seats and we take off about an hour late.
As we normally fly with Travel City Direct our seatback TVs are a huge novelty and we spend time playing about with them. I watch Harry Potter 5, Shrek 3, episodes of Shrink Rap and Who Do You Think You Are and listen to radio shows. I try to play tetris but the handset is a little bit dodge so I give up. Scott also loves the TV and spends most of the flight playing blackjack. Later in the flight I get the camera out and start snapping off some shots through the window at the magnificent scenery below, according to the SkyMap we pass over the Dakotas, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. I also get my first ever glimpses of the Colorado River & the Rocky Mountains.
Annoyingly only those on the other side of the plane really see the Grand Canyon but we can see part of one end and even that it is impressive. As we are expecting anther hour on board, the co-pilot comes over the speakers to announce that we’ve just been given permission to use another flight path and please could we all use the bathrooms as we’re about to begin descent! Soon we’re on the tarmac at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
We’re some of the last people off the plane being so near the back and join an enormous queue at immigration, however it moves quickly and we’re soon with our official. She is very friendly and, on noticing my birth date in my passport, wishes me a very happy birthday for the following day and a great stay in the USA. We find our entire luggage quickly except mine which has found itself off the carousel in a separate area for some reason we never quite understood. We make our way out of the terminal and soon spot our driver holding up a “G. Brown” sign. He leads us out of the terminal and over to the most enormous limousine any of us have ever seen. Scott’s dad – Graham - had booked the limo weeks ago (a surprise for his mum - Linda) but had no idea we’d get anything like this. The driver loads our luggage and we set off for the Stratosphere Casino.
We arrive half an hour later and grab a shot of the group with the limo courtesy of our driver.
Entering the casino for the first time is an experience I’ll never forget, the sheer volume of the machines is incredible and you’ve never seen so much activity in your life as millions of L.E.D lights flash simultaneously. The guys check us in as me and Linda wait with the luggage out of the way as the queue is huge (remember I’m still not old enough to be in the gaming areas until midnight!) We head to the lifts for our rooms; we are on floor 14, the others on 18. In the lift we agree to call them later and it’s only when the doors close that we realise we don’t know their room number! Never fear, Scott’s dad calls the desk and they ring our room within a few minutes as they realised the same thing as the doors had closed. We have a pretty amazing view of the mountains and smaller non-Strip casinos.
Scott & I are hungry so we make our way back downstairs to the Courtyard Buffet and I enjoy turkey from the carvery, shrimp, fries and coke while Scott sticks to the carvery meats. Later on we meet back up with Linda & Graham and get a taxi to the Venetian – no time to waste in the hotel rooms apparently! The taxi ride is one of those times you comprehend your own mortality all too clearly as we dive perilously through lanes of busy traffic but we eventually make it in one piece.
We stroll leisurely through the Venetians shops stopping to admire some of the amazing architecture. Me and Linda are both drawn to a beautiful necklace in one window but almost faint on seeing the price tag, a mind boggling $1.3 million! We spot another more reasonable necklace later on, just $10 but end up leaving the resort without spending anything. We cross the road (a feat by itself) to the Mirage.
After watching the volcano erupt, stop for a drink in the Revolution bar, themed to the British bands of the 1960’s and 70’s, with a little bit of Supergrass for good measure. It’s not midnight yet so I’m on the lemonade but doubt I could have handled alcohol anyway. Next up is Treasure Island which is honestly a bit rubbish inside so we leave quickly.
Outside is the pirate ship where a show is happening, we can’t see what’s going on but it sounds like irritating pop/dance stuff so we don’t hang about much and continue our trek down the Strip towards the most recent development, a stunningly swanky casino called the Wynn. This one is more my style as it’s elegant and subtle, unlike many others which are a bit OTT. We walk through the shopping district but we’re all dead on our feet by now so we grab another taxi and head back to the Stratosphere.
The initial plan had been to stay up until midnight and celebrate with a round of drinks at the bar. It’s just past 11pm now but we are all barely conscious and know we’ll never last another hour so we say our goodnights and head to bed, ready for a good night’s sleep and another full day tomorrow.